Truth be told, of anything listed on Fashion Week El Paseo’s weeklong lineup, we were most excited for the Islands of the World runway presentation, which took place last night under the big white fashion tent in Palm Desert. Why? Because everywhere you look, from popular fashion blogs such as Jak and Jil to the pages of Elle to the streets of Los Angeles, ethnic tribal dressing is in full effect.
And the featured designers of last night’s show, each a winner of UNESCO’s Islands of the World Fashion Week 2009, came from exotic locales including Bali and Madagascar, to show their worldly wares. And they didn’t disappoint.
Nadya, a Balinese designer who crafts her goods by hand from a garden studio in Puri Naga, showed flowing, woven silks that not only represented her homeland, but stayed in step with modern American trends, too. A long, whispy cream and gold iridescent skirt was slightly reminiscent of the hippie-esque, Halston confection worn by actress Jenna Fischer to this year’s Golden Globes. While a delicate linen and silk, thick-strapped tank top could have had a place at Woodstock.
Jamaican designer K-Bobby, who won an Emmy in 1994 for hairstyling on the miniseries “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All,” graced the runway with his goods, too. And the mostly formal pieces included a bevy of taffeta gowns fit for a bridal party. Standouts included a maroon-hued, asymmetrical halter dress with a fringed neckline that, surprisingly, wasn’t overpowering but suited the delicate dress just fine. For men, vests were the piece to beat with one version featuring a quirky, summer-at-the-cape madras collar while another got the soldier treatment in a green camo color palette.
Representing the Bahamas, where one usually goes for nothing more than a hangover, was handbag designer Harl Taylor. His colorful, woven straw creations of varying shapes and sizes came complete with ornaments of swordfish, turtles and seahorses and seemed to satisfy the ladies in the front row — themselves decked out in desert resort wear. Taylor even sent lads down the catwalk carrying murses — that’s man purses — made of straw. And yes, they featured said fruits de mer, too.
The evening’s standouts were looks from designer Eric Raisina of Madagascar, and the collection debut from Valona Wynn and Gayle Weintraub’s V&G Accessories.
Raisina studied his craft in Paris and spent time living in Cambodia, where he became an expert in working with Cambodian silk. His first look slightly mimicked Balenciaga’s sculptural, floral mini-dresses of a few seasons past. But moving forward Raisina’s pieces were decidedly his own. Second-skin ruched dresses made the need for a good wax and shave on the part of the wearer imperative. A sheer, short sleeved grayish-blue cardigan featured squares of matching silk. And Raisina clearly knew his audience, who seemed to marvel at the cropped silk pants they were surely plotting for use at their next casual luncheon.
As for V&G’s accessories, we’re currently on the hunt for the burnt orange, fringed leather necklace that looked more like a cool, hippie neck brace than a piece of jewelry.
We have no doubt that it will be our favorite spring piece.
Full Video of the Show –